VANCLEAVE, MS (WLOX) - Learning about the environment could pay off big for some South Mississippi students. On Thursday, teams from six high schools competed in the Mississippi Envirothon South Area Competition. The event tested the students' knowledge on a variety of environmental topics.
One group examined bugs and marine life, while another team studied animal skulls and pelts to figure out the species of wildlife. Then, it was time to get a little dirty in a soil pit.
"I didn't know I had to learn so many different layers of soil, how there's very different kinds of soils, and also how to measure a tree," said Vancleave High School Junior Ross Gress.
Nine teams of students representing six high schools across South Mississippi competed in the Envirothon Competition at Vancleave Park. The competition combined hands-on skills and a written exam. Each team was tested on its knowledge about forestry, soils, wildlife, aquatics, and locally-grown produce.
"A lot of studying, we went to Barnes & Noble almost every night studying. We had binders full for each category. We all went through it so hard," said Harrison Central High School Sophomore Hakeem Mikle.
The contest seemed intense, because the winning teams will advance to the state competition. The top winners at the state level will be eligible for thousands of dollars in scholarships. Since 2000, $12,000 in scholarships have been given out every year.
"It would help us get money to go to college, which is expensive these days," said Hancock High School Junior Jacki McDunnah.
And they may be inspired to become future wildlife biologists, foresters, and nature lovers.
"We really want the students to learn about natural resources and conservation, but it's just as important as a citizen to just know about that and how you should treat your environment," said Susan Shedd, Education Specialist with the Mississippi Soil & Water Conversation Commission.
"It's just a great chance to get involved for the wildlife, get to know more about our parks, get to know about the environment, how to help it," said Gress.
"I want to major in biological engineering, so this is really good. I feel like knowing the plants and animals and trees, that's going to help me in the future," said Mikle.
The state competition will take place in May in Morton, Mississippi. There won't be a national event this year due to a shortage in funding. Thursday's Envirothon was sponsored by Chevron.